While time travel is traditionally featured in works of science fiction, nowadays, you can find elements of this mysterious phenomenon in just about every genre of gaming.
It’s typically depicted in one of two ways: a plot device where characters must go back in time to prevent something from happening, or a game mechanic in which players manipulate time to overcome challenges.
In this list, we’ll highlight the best time travel games to play in 2021, including games about time travel and the best time travel games for PC.
We’ll be updating this list in the future with new titles, so make sure to check back and let us know if we missed any of your favorite games involving time travel!
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Platforms: Windows, PS5
A common trend in more recent games is characters getting stuck in perpetual time loops and having to figure out a way to escape.
One of the more recent titles to explore this trope is Deathloop, an immersive sim shooter about a talented hitman who finds himself trapped in time on a party island with rival assassins.
To end the loop, you’ll have to eliminate the eight targets responsible for your serious case of déjà vu while also navigating the island’s numerous threats.
It’s a clever approach to open-ended gameplay that builds upon previous Arkane games such as Dishonored and only benefits from looking like an acid trip from the ‘70s.
The Forgotten City
Platforms: Windows, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch
Set during an alternate version of the Roman Empire, it sees you exploring a city subjected to the Golden Rule: a religious mandate where any sinful action causes the entire population to turn into permanent gold statues.
While investigating the rule’s origins and which sins it applies to, you’re informed someone in the city plans to break it, prompting you to travel backward in time to stop them.
It’s an interesting take on time travel that also explores the existential relationship between humanity and its laws, namely what is truly considered right or wrong.
This is a great justification for the game’s roguelike design, which sees the protagonist resurrected after each death as she traverses the planet’s foreign environments and battles a host of extraterrestrial foes.
The further you progress, the stranger and more unsettling Selene’s visions become as she finds herself increasingly entangled in an ever-changing world.
If you manage to make it to the end and break the loop, you’ll be faced with some startling revelations about the main character and the planet that make for great sci-fi storytelling.
Platforms: Windows, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
Although time travel generally involves going forward or backward in history, you can extend this further to account for multiple realities or planes of existence.
With this mindset, one could argue that the horror game The Medium uses time travel as a game mechanic, with the main character able to travel between the spirit world and the living world.
In a practical sense, this allows you to make changes in either world that affects the other, such as unlocking doors to progress, obtaining a key item to solve a puzzle, or warding off hostile enemies.
The story follows psychic Marianne as she’s mysteriously summoned to an abandoned hotel where she’ll have to use her powers to unravel its history and help free the spirits trapped within its grounds.
In it, you play as a man living in a world that’s about to collapse into anarchy who suddenly discovers their wife and kids have mysteriously disappeared.
While searching your home for clues, you stumble upon a watch that lets you travel between two eras: the post-apocalyptic present, and 1950s American suburbia.
By switching back and forth between both realities, you’re able to alter the state of certain objects to solve puzzles and advance the story.
Inspired by sci-fi classics like Back to the Future, No Time sees you stealing a suspiciously familiar time machine vehicle from a secret facility before setting off on a time-traveling adventure.
Unlike many games in the genre which center on heavily scripted missions, the game functions as a time travel simulator with both story and sandbox elements.
As a result, you’re free to explore any date throughout history from 0-2030 AD while making sure not to destroy the current timeline by interfering as little as possible and avoiding your younger self.
The game also features a day/night cycle, various job minigames and side quests, crafting, and a combat system for dealing with pesky Time Agents.
Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
You take on the role of the newest recruit for Outer Wilds Ventures, a fledgling space program looking to expand its knowledge of the galaxy and its ancestors’ mysterious disappearance.
The story tackles numerous sci-fi tropes such as black holes, antimatter, and of course time travel, with your character trapped in a perpetual 22-minute time loop.
This is complemented by a densely packed open world consisting of hand-crafted, explorable planets with interesting backstories and distinct hazards that can be tricky to navigate.
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S
Twelve Minutes is an interactive thriller about a man having a romantic dinner with his wife when a mysterious man claiming to be a police detective shows up on his doorstep.
Things quickly escalate and eventually the man is killed, only to find himself transported to the beginning of the evening with his previous memories intact.
Confused and desperate, he sets out to break the time loop by searching the apartment for clues and interviewing each person involved.
While some of the game’s different endings get into weird, taboo territory, there are interesting puzzles and narrative threads to tug at that make the journey worthwhile, though we suggest following a guide.
Platforms: Windows, Mac
In the stealth puzzle adventure game Timelie, every second matters and can bring you one step closer to freedom or death.
The game has you taking on the role of a young woman with a special gift that lets her control the flow of time as if it were a media player, rewinding and fast-forwarding to gain new insights.
Harnessing this power allows her to manipulate obstacles in her path and avoid detection from robot patrols preventing her from leaving.
The story is quite compelling and the time travel mechanics are explored in some truly fascinating ways that become more complex the further you go.
The Gardens Between
Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Linux, Mac, iOS
The game is unique in that you don’t control the main characters directly but rather move them backward and forwards through time while altering the state of different objects to progress.
Each level reveals more about the relationship between the two main characters, Arian and Frendt, chronicling the evolution of their friendship leading up to a life-changing event.
While it’s a short-lived experience, clocking in around 2.5 hours, The Gardens Between tells a compelling story and explores time travel mechanics in some fun and interesting ways.
Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Linux, Mac
Her quest for justice brings her to a mysterious and hostile world where she’ll have no choice but to wield her time manipulation power to defend herself and rewrite history.
The game has you exploring beautiful, atmospheric pixel art environments while switching between the past and present as you defeat enemies and acquire new powers.
Mastering Lunais’ time-manipulating abilities open up new possibilities for combat, which is further complemented by familiars that can be trained to fight on your side.
Life Is Strange
Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android
A standout adventure title from Dontnod Studios and published by Square Enix, Life is Strange follows 18-year old aspiring photographer Max Caulfield as she comes to terms with her newfound powers.
Max has a supernatural ability that lets her move backward or forwards through time to alter the state of objects and their effect on the people around her.
Its applications vary depending on the scenario, allowing Max to mend relationships with her friends and family, solve bigger mysteries, and get revenge against the occasional bully.
Even if the gameplay aspect falls flat at times, the way time travel is introduced and incorporated into the structure of the story makes up for it.
Platforms: Windows, Xbox One
In it, you take on the role of Jack Joyce, a man on a mission to prevent his timeline from ending by harnessing an array of unique time-based powers.
The story doubles as a live-action television series with certain events explained in further detail, which can require a bit more of a commitment than your average game.
With that said, Quantum Break is one of the best-looking time travel games in terms of graphical fidelity, boasting cool mind-bending camera tricks and special effects that still look great in 2021.
Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Mac
This grants the player ample time to assess threats and determine the best course of action before setting it in motion with stylish shootouts and melee showdowns.
To ensure combat is always readable, the game employs a minimalist art style that does a great job at conveying info: enemies are always red, environments are white, and weapons are black.
While it’s best enjoyed in VR with full immersion, you’ll still have a lot of fun playing with a gamepad controller or just mouse and keyboard.
Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One
The follow-up to Respawn’s criminally underrated first-person shooter features refined gunplay and fluid movement with a touch of time travel.
During Titanfall 2’s campaign, your character obtains a special wrist-mounted device that lets them swap back and forth between the past and present.
This proves useful for traversing crumbling structures, bypassing groups of enemies, and solving environmental puzzles as pilot Jack Cooper.
Combine this with exciting parkour-based platforming and an arsenal of satisfyingly powerful weaponry and it’s easy to see why Titanfall fans want to see the series return.
Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Linux, Mac
Time travel in the BioShock series is presented as a plot device in which certain characters, namely Elizabeth and the Lutece twins, can create dimensional time-alternating portals called Tears.
To that point, the game’s take on parallel universes and how they affect the overarching story can be boiled down to a single quote: “There’s always a lighthouse, there’s always a man, there’s always a city.”
BioShock Infinite sees you venturing into a floating steampunk city called Columbia where citizens still cling to violent religious and racist beliefs.
In order to make sense of the series’ extensive timeline, consider playing through the first two games in the series or watching a recap video before starting Infinite.
Platforms: Windows, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, Linux, Mac
In it, you take on the role of a man named Tim as he attempts to rescue a princess from an evil monster using time manipulation.
If that description didn’t make it obvious enough, the game’s story is meant to critique popular trends in modern video games but also features some excellent time travel puzzles.
Levels cover everything from rewinding and fast-forwarding time, altering the state of certain objects, using your character’s movement to determine the flow of time, and much more we don’t wish to spoil.